Obama launched an Asia Pivot, remember that? Others called it a ‘re-balance’. Well…..
The “rebalance” policy not only aims to protect the region from unwanted security threats, but also to secure commercial sea lanes for American imports and exports flowing in and out of the region.
It is increasingly important for the U.S. to maintain freedom for navigation from the
Arabian Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The economic aspects of the “rebalance” under the Obama Administration have been largely shaped by U.S. participation in the TPP talks aimed at institutionalizing regional free trade practices. The vision of the U.S. Trade Representative for the TPP is an FTA for the twelve negotiating parties –Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S., and Vietnam –
which will form the basis for a broader agreement that eventually could eventually include all the economies of the Asia -Pacific region, including China.
If successful, the TPP could provide the US with a number of benefits. It would include U.S. access to growing markets in Asia, help stimulate the growth in U.S. exports, generate export – related jobs, and foster an economic recovery, while enhancing measures to protect U.S. intellectual property rights, and ensuring that business competition occurs in a fair regional market.
The third major component of the U.S. “rebalance” policy falls in the “dignity basket”
that seeks to uphold democratic and human rights and the rule of law. The Obama
Administration’s emphasis on universal rights targets the credibility of the Chinese
government in the midst of its rapid growth and intends to apply pressure on Beijing to
adhere to right practices as a responsible stakeholder. In this way, China’s rise would be
perceived as less of a threat to regional and global powers and more as a constructive
member of the international community. The Administration’s “rebalance” to the Asia-
Pacific region is in essence a hedging strategy towards China, one that combines engagement
with Beijing with the creation of a network of bilateral military partnerships and alliances in the Asia-Pacific as a potential counterweight against the rise of China.
The U.S. “rebalance” has endowed smaller nations who are claimants of the South China
Sea territories with more political capital without becoming directly involved in such territorial disputes.
As a result, Chinese and western analysts are concerned about the “rebalance” being an actual policy of containment against China. Obama Administration officials, in response, repeatedly
make clear that “rebalance” to Asia is not a containment strategy, but a policy aimed at strategically placing the U.S. in a favorable position as the Asia-Pacific becomes one of